The Los Angeles Dodgers finished their sweep of the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday at Coors Field, winning 8-6. Like so many games before this one, the Rockies had several chances to win, however, a lack of performance in clutch situations foiled any chance they may have had.
Ubaldo Jimenez started on the mound for the struggling Rockies, he pitched well, but left in the seventh inning with a 3-2 lead. He had given up two runs, but was on the hook for the two runners on first and third base.
Clint Hurdle headed to the mound to get Jimenez, who had thrown 109 pitches, in favor of Manny Corpas. Although Corpas has had his struggles, he has been pitching better as of late.
Wednesday Corpas looked like the struggling pitcher that he had been in April. He gave up a hit and a walk, allowing both inherited runners to score. Corpas was removed, and Randy Flores gave up a hit in the gap, scoring the two runners that Corpas had allowed.
To add insult to injury, Alan Embree, touted as the veteran in the bullpen who would lead by example, gave up another run in the eight inning to make the game out of reach.
Although the Rockies offense mounted a comeback in the ninth inning, the game was lost in the seventh inning.
While Jimenez's pitch count was high, Hurdle showed his weakest spot as a manager. Jimenez should never have been pulled with two outs in the seventh inning. With the lead, and one pitch from being out of the jam, Hurdle went to the most unstable part of the team so far in 2009, the bullpen.
While Corpas has been better of late, he was removed from the closer's role that he briefly held because he had struggled in clutch situations. Although this was the seventh inning, this was the most important situation that Corpas has been in so far.
Hindsight is 20/20, but Hurdle should allow his starting pitchers to win and lose games on their own. This would not be the case if the bullpen was reliable, but the Colorado bullpen at this point in the season is anything but reliable. In fact, reliable would be the polar opposite of what this bullpen has been a quarter of the way through the season.
At that point in the game, Jimenez was simply the best option to get the next batter out.
The bullpen was not the only aspect of the team that struggled. Troy Tulowitzki, struggling at the plate, went 0-for-5, including grounding into a double play in the first inning, and striking out three times, the third coming with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth inning.
There is not a single aspect of the club that is not struggling. While players are responsible for getting the job done on the field, there has to be an explanation for an entire team struggling.
The time bomb may be ticking for Hurdle. Despite his votes of confidence from ownership and general manager Dan O'Dowd, losses like this may seal the fate and force the club to go in a different direction.